The Olympic opening ceremony shows why lefties should embrace pageantry

The NHS, the Windrush - this was a Britain to make us proud.

Elizabeth II, long to parachute over us, plummeting from a helicopter with James Bond, is what will live longest in the memory, perhaps. (It certainly gives a new meaning to 'I'll treat you like a Queen.')

But what we should take away from Danny Boyle's stellar Olympic opening ceremony is how even the fun-hating wet blankets of the laughless Left - you know, us - can find something to enjoy in a bit of pageantry, celebration and (gasp) patriotism. If it's done well.

If you put the right totems in front of the right people, they press the right buttons. I felt my liberal buttons being pressed a lot by Boyle: I knew I was being exploited, manipulated and whatever, but by jingo I enjoyed the thrill.

It wasn't just the excitement of seeing my own favourite things about Britain - the NHS, multiculturalism, and so on - brought to the hillocky altar that floated my leftleaning boat. It was also the slightly more childish delight of knowing - and being able to see, through seething tweets - just how much it was going to irk my political foes.

I could imagine them fuming and wincing at scenes such as when the Windrush arrived. Some, Tory MP Aidan Burley for instance, were less able to think before they tweeted their reaction to what they were seeing. Others were more capable of biting their tongues, perhaps.

There were other bits I was less keen on - the bowing and scraping to royalty, for example; the Seb Coe speech hinting at a future political rehabilitation for William Hague's former judo sparring partner, in particular.

We've all got favourites. Wasn't it terrific, though, to see something like the NHS so publicly celebrated, at a time when it's under so much threat? (No, you're entitled to grumble in the comments, no, it was awful, the NHS is awful and it should all be privatised tomorrow morning. One person's joy is another's sorrow.)

Some lefties are uncomfortable about being patriotic, for a huge range of reasons. What's worth noticing in a huge sporting event like the Olympics or a World Cup is the pride and passion of the participants. It's not xenophobic, scary nationalism but a more benign celebration of what we have in common, despite our differences.

Not just that, though, but it's worth remembering how much people from across a range of backgrounds can be brought together in a sense of shared endeavour and collective participation.

There's nothing wrong with that and in a lot of ways it's exactly what we've always been about: those of us old enough to remember trade unions have a faint recollection of banner-waving, galas and marches. There was a time when we weren't so coy about getting together and enjoying ourselves, rather than sneering from the sidelines.

So. Let us take the lead from our gracious Queen, and take the plunge from that helicopter. Let's not be afraid of pomp and pageantry; let's just dive in.

Danny Boyle's vision of Britain presses liberal buttons. Photo: Getty
Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.